UPDATE 2-Canada chalks up another quarter of weak growth

Fri Mar 1, 2013 8:56am EST
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* Fourth-quarter GDP grows 0.6 pct, annualized, as expected

* December GDP contracts 0.2 pct

* Weak spots were inventories, manufacturing

* Consumer spending main contributor to growth

OTTAWA, March 1 (Reuters) - Canada's economy grew at a sluggish pace in the final quarter of 2012 after a similarly disappointing third quarter, resulting in the weakest six months since the 2008-09 recession, Statistics Canada data indicated on Friday.

The slowdown will likely add pressure on the Bank of Canada to keep stimulus in place for longer and weigh on the Conservative government as it prepares its next budget.

Gross domestic product expanded by 0.6 percent, annualized, Statistics Canada said, as inventory accumulation slowed sharply and the manufacturing sector retreated.

It was the worst performance since the second quarter of 2011, when the economy contracted 0.8 percent in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Excluding that extraordinary effect, the last time the economy fared worse was at the end of the recession in the second quarter of 2009, when it shrank 3.6 percent.   Continued...